Truth & Memory: British Art of WWI, York Art Gallery

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Jill and I went to a private view of this exhibition on Thursday last week and I would recommend it to anyone interested in WWI or early 20th century representation art.

The whole of the ground floor is given over to the exhibition, which is on until 4 September and then most of it returns home to the Imperial War Museum, London.  In the main room there are some very large canvases displaying the effects of war: each with a different subject and artist so there is lots to consider on content, composition and creativity.  Dotted around are charming busts of some of the great and the good and maquettes  of sculptures, mostly for memorials.  Among the sculptures are two by Jacob Epstein which are delicate in a way not seen in his later large commissioned work.  William Orpen  has a sizeable amount of wall space, which pleased me as I have a “critical edition” of his memoirs “an Onlooker in France”.  That book, published in 2008 contains nearly all the pictures he painted while in France together with his memoirs of the time.  It’s not a literary masterpiece but does give one a feel for both the horror and absurdity of it all.  The pictures are nearly all in colour, and quite good reproductions they are too, but they did not prepare me for seeing the real paintings, which are far larger and and have a depth of pigment that cannot be rendered in a book.

There are also quite a few paintings by the Nash brothers, several by CRW Nevinson, in different styles, a couple by Wyndham Lewis, and by  Stanley Spencer.  A surprise for me were the three monumental works by Anna Airy, one of the first women war artists, and others in that room on what was happening on the home front.

I shall be making a few more trips to the gallery while the exhibition is on as I feel there is far to much to absorb in one visit.

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